The number of people using e-cigarettes has hit its highest ever while smoking rates continue to drop, in spite of the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
3.3 million UK vapers
The latest smoking prevalence data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has been released and it shows huge success for vaping!
In 2014, when data on UK e-cigarette users first started being recorded, 3.7% of the population reporting using an e-cigarette. The data shows that in 2020 the number of e-cigarette users in the UK has jumped up to 6.4%, or 3.3 million people, the highest number since records began.
The ONS report found that the number of e-cigarette users who have completely quit smoking with the help of an e-cigarette has risen from 11.7% in 2019 to 12.3% in 2020. There was also an increase in those who both smoke and vape as a way to reduce the amount they smoke, from 15.5% in 2019 to 17.8% in 2020.
John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), weighed in on the findings:
“This is a hugely welcome announcement as everyone on the side of harm reduction knows that vaping is far less harmful than smoking – by as much as 95% according to the former health protection watchdog Public Health England (now part of the UK Health Security Agency) – so more people vaping and less smoking can only be cause for celebration.”
Smoking rates continue to drop
Alongside the increase in e-cigarette use, the data has also found that smoking rates in the UK have continued to drop.
A small spike in smoking prevalence was seen in August, during the UK national lockdown, when rates rose to 16.3% and there were reports of people smoking more or returning to smoking due to the stress of the pandemic. You can read more about this in our blog post 'Smoking has increased during the lockdown'.
Discussing this increase, John Dunne identified reduced access to vaping products as a contributing factor:
“While this rise in smoking prevalence during lockdown could be attributed to increased anxiety because of the pandemic, I would also point towards the fact that specialty vape shops were not granted ‘essential retail’ status and therefore had to close their doors as another significant contributing factor.”
Fortunately, this peak was short lived, and smoking rates dropped again by the end of the year, with many people embracing the change in routine as a way to help them kick their smoking habit in favour of a less harmful alternative like vaping. By the end of 2020 smoking rates had dropped to 13.8%, continuing the trend of consistent decline seen in recent years and putting them below 14% for the first time in years.
It is amazing to see that smoking rates in the UK are continuing to decline, and the increase in vaping rates certainly suggests that e-cigarettes are playing a big part in helping people kick their smoking habit. We can only hope that these rates continue at their current trajectory, getting us closer to the goal of a smoke-free future!
At a glance
·Vaping rates in the UK hit highest since records began with 6.4% or 3.3 million vapers in 2020
·Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show smoking rates are below 14% for the first time in years
·Smoking rates rose to a 16.3% peak in August 2020 during the lockdown but had decreased again by the end of 2020 to 13.8%